Fayette Historic Townsite is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan between Escanaba and Manistique. Fayette is seventeen miles south of U.S. 2 in Fayette Historic State Park, accessible via Delta County Road 183 off US-2 west of Manistique. It once was a bustling industrial community which manufactured charcoal pig iron for economical shipping to the Great Lakes steel companies.
In the mid-1800s, iron ore was shipped from the Upper Peninsula mines to the foundries in the lower Great Lakes at an enormous cost. This high cost of shipping was caused by inefficient transportation combined with the nearly 40 percent waste the ore contained. The solution was to build a blast furnace close to the mine where the ore could be smelted into pig iron before it was shipped to the steel-making centers. The town had to be relatively close to the Escanaba ore docks, have a natural harbor, and be near the limestone and hardwood forests that were needed to smelt the iron ore.
Named after Fayette Brown, the Jackson Iron Company agent who chose the site, Fayette was once one of the Upper Peninsula's most productive iron-smelting operations. Located on the Garden Peninsula at Snail Shell Harbor, Fayette grew up around two blast furnaces, a large dock and several charcoal kilns after the Civil War. Nearly five hundred residents, many immigrating from Canada, the British Isles and northern Europe, lived in and near the town that existed to make pig iron.
During twenty-four years of operation, 1867 to l891, Fayette's blast furnaces produced a total of 229,288 tons of iron, using local hardwood forests for fuel and quarrying limestone from the bluffs to purify the iron ore. When the charcoal iron market began to decline, the Jackson Iron Company closed its Fayette smelting operation. :
Today, visitors to Fayette State Park see nineteen structures including several public and commercial buildings, residences which housed the people of Fayette, and the stabilized ruins of the furnace complex.
Attractions include a visitor center, museum exhibits, a twenty-six-station walking tour and a scale model of the original townsite. Scheduled tours are offered to visitors from mid-June through Labor Day. The visitor center is handicapped accessible. Allow two to three hours for tour of the townsite.
Annual events include the Fayette Heritage Days the 2nd Saturday in August featuring period displays, food and music.
Camp in Fayette State Park while visiting this historic town.
Area Attractions on the Garden Peninsula
The Village Artisans of Garden is a delightful Art Gallery filled with fine arts and crafts created by Upper Peninsula Artists. Enjoy the beautiful paintings, photography, pottery, weaving, jewelry, fabrics, metal creations, wood turning, baskets, glass blowing, stained glass, home made jams, interesting books, plus much more. The Garden Art Gallery is open daily from Mid-May through Mid-October. Located between Escanaba and Manistique, 8 miles south of US-2. Turn south at Garden Corners on Highway M-183 to the town of Garden, Michigan. Phone 906-644-2025
Photo of Fayette Smelter from the water by Nicole Martin
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